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Vaginal Swelling: Causes, Treatments, And Preventive Care Tips

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Causes And Treatments For Vaginal Swelling

Vaginitis or swelling and soreness of the vaginal region is often caused by an infection with bacteria or yeast, STDs, or irritation from spermicides, douches or vaginal sprays. It can be avoided with the right preventive care to keep the area clean by changing undergarments often, washing up properly after using the toilet, or using barrier protection during intercourse.

Vaginitis or swelling and soreness of the vaginal region is an uncomfortable condition that you can easily avoid with some simple care. If you already have the infection, some simple home remedies and hygiene tips are all you’ll need to see the last of the problem.

What Is Vaginal Swelling?

If you feel discomfort in the genital region, it can be due to vaginal swelling. You may find that one side of the vagina is swollen, or you have vaginal lips or labia minora swollen, or even a swollen vaginal canal. This may be accompanied by irritation, itchiness, and redness in the vaginal area. Urinating may be uncomfortable and could even result in a burning pain.1 If the vagina is inflamed due to an underlying infection, you’re likely to see redness or even a little warmth in a specific area that’s swollen.

If its an edema, fluid fills the tissues in the area in general and not just one spot, as in the case of thrush or yeast infections. For such infections, you’re likely to see redness, have a burning sensation or pain accompanying the swelling. You may also have a thick white discharge without an offensive door.2

In the case of bacterial vaginosis, some people may also detect a foul odor from the genital region, accompanied by a gray/white discharge.3

Causes Of Vaginal Swelling

According to the National Health Services, UK, vaginal swelling could result from a few different kinds of infections including4:

  • Thrush, a kind of fungal infection due to a yeast known as Candida albicans
  • Bacterial vaginosis, an infection of the vagina caused by bacteria
  • Chemical irritation from using some perfumed products in the genital region
  • Irritation from a spermicide or condom chemical
  • Washing or rinsing of the vagina to “clean” it, using a douche or otherwise
  • Sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia, genital herpes, or trichomoniasis
  • Sometimes, atrophic vaginitis may set in due to vaginal atrophy from aging. As the mucosa thins and gets drier with age in postmenopausal women, there could be dryness, itching, and burning as well swelling.

Preventing Vaginal Swelling

Your first line of defense or treatment for any vaginal infection, including vaginitis, is prevention. Here are some easy-to-follow hygiene rules that you should always follow to prevent infecting yourself.

  • Never try to “clean” the inside of your vagina by washing it, using vaginal cleansing products or even just plain water. These can irritate the sensitive skin in the genital region. For the same reasons, avoid any vaginal douche products.5 Use plain water to wash around the vagina and limit the use of soap to a minimum.
  • Always wear underwear that is not too tight. Ensure your trousers, jeans, and shorts are also loose fitting.6
  • Don’t wear clothing and underwear for very long spells and wash before reusing. Changing often can help avoid bacteria and sweat from becoming a breeding ground for infection.7
  • To avoid contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), always use a barrier method of protection. If your skin is sensitive, avoid spermicides. For condom-related vaginal irritation, simply try switching to a different brand and an unperfumed variant. That should help.
  • Skip the perfumed toilet paper and sanitary pads for simple regular unscented ones. That’s because perfumes often contain chemicals and fragrances that you could be allergic or sensitive to.8
  • Be careful when you clean up after using the bathroom. Bacteria from your stool could accidentally get wiped from the rectum into the vaginal region. Which is why you should take care to always wipe from front to back.9
  • Use sanitary pads instead of tampons to help your body expel the bacteria and avoid infection from tampons left in too long.10

Treatments For Vaginal Swelling

If you are unlucky enough to catch an infection, some simple home treatments can offer respite. Of course, if you have an especially bad bout or a recurrent problem, you may still need to see your doctor. In some cases, antibiotics may need to be prescribed, but don’t try and self-medicate.11

1. Use Honey And Yogurt

A topical treatment of honey and yogurt has been suggested to treat vulvo-vaginal candidiasis or thrush, a yeast infection that causes the vaginal area to swell. They act as local antifungal agents and are a good alternative at times when stronger medicines cannot be given, as in the case of pregnancy. One test showed it had a high clinical cure rate when pregnant women were given this mixture vaginally. However, you may want to check with your gynecologist if this is safe for you, especially if you have a baby on board, just to be safe.12

2. Have Probiotic Foods

The vaginal tract and the urinary tract together have an estimated 50 bacterial strains in perfect balance. Of these, lactobacilli – the kind found in yogurt and fermented foods – need to dominate if you are to be in good health. However, your diet, hormonal levels, hygiene, contraceptive use, and antibiotic consumption can upset the balance, making you more susceptible to infections like thrush. Research has found that eating probiotic foods can help combat the problem and any chances of recurrences. It can also have a preventive effect.13

3. Pucker Up For Some Vinegar

High sugar levels in the blood make the environment primed for yeast growth. Which is why women with diabetes are at high risk of developing recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis.14 If you are diabetic or have high blood glucose levels as a result of insulin sensitivity, you could benefit from taking vinegar. It can be comfortably added to salads as a dressing or taken plain or mixed with lukewarm water. This common ingredient has antiglycemic effects,15 lowering blood sugar and making the environment in the vagina less hospitable for yeast growth.

4. Eat Nutrient-Rich Food

Certain nutrients like B vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants are good for overall health, including of the vaginal region. They can help your body get rid of toxins (fiber), keep off infection (antioxidants) and build immunity(B vitamins and antioxidants). So add green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, fruit like blueberries and cherries, vegetables like bell peppers or squash, fibrous food like oats and beans to your grocery list.16

5. Increase Fluid Intake

Staying well hydrated can help your vaginal region stay moist and well lubricated, easing some of the irritation. Conversely, not getting enough could leave the tissue even more sore from the dryness from atrophic vaginitis. Be sure to get in a minimum of 6 to 8 glasses of water every single day. You can supplement this with natural fresh-squeezed juices with no added sugar (since sugar is favorable to yeast growth).17

6. Have Some Garlic

Garlic’s antifungal and antibacterial properties make it a formidable ally against vaginitis infections, though further studies are needed before it is widely prescribed as a treatment by mainstream medical practitioners.18 Just be sure to check with your doctor before you have it in supplement form because it could thin your blood or interact with other medication.19

7. Try Acupuncture

Alternative medicine treatments like acupuncture are believed to have a complementary role to play in treating vaginitis.20 Acupuncture therapy helps improve immune function, making your body more resilient against fungal or bacterial infections that cause vaginitis.21 In one instance where acupuncture was used as an alternative non-hormonal treatment for atrophic vaginitis for a postmenopausal woman, after a 3-month treatment window, all symptoms were completely resolved and the discomfort and pain as well as dryness went away. Researchers felt the therapy had potential for for wider use, though more studies are needed to back this up.22

References   [ + ]

1, 3, 9, 10. Vulvovaginitis. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
2. Vaginal infections. Office on Women’s Health.
4. Vaginitis. NHS.
5, 6, 7, 11. Yeast infection. The Center for Young Women’s Health.
8. Vaginal thrush. Better Health Channel Victoria State Government.
12. Abdelmonem, Allam M., Salah M. Rasheed, and Abeer Sh Mohamed. “Bee-honey and yogurt: a novel mixture for treating patients with vulvovaginal candidiasis during pregnancy.” Archives of gynecology and obstetrics 286, no. 1 (2012): 109-114.
13. de Vrese, Michael. “Health benefits of probiotics and prebiotics in women.” Menopause International 15, no. 1 (2009): 35-40.
14. Treatment of Recurrent Vulvovaginal Candidiasis. American Academy of Family Physicians.
15. Johnston, Carol S. “Medicinal uses of vinegar.” Complementary and Alternative Therapies in the Aging Population (2011): 433.
16, 17, 19, 21. Vaginitis. University of Maryland Medical Center.
18. Van Kessel, Katherine, Nassim Assefi, Jeanne Marrazzo, and Linda Eckert. “Common complementary and alternative therapies for yeast vaginitis and bacterial vaginosis: a systematic review.” Obstetrical & gynecological survey 58, no. 5 (2003): 351-358.
20. Castelo-Branco, Camil, and Fabiola Rostro. “Treatment of atrophic vaginitis.” (2007): 349-353.
22. Cahill, Kandace. “The treatment of postmenopausal atrophic vaginitis and dyspareunia with acupuncture and Chinese herbs: a case study.” Journal of Chinese Medicine 99 (2012): 31.